This review examines the role of MR imaging in the diagnosis and staging of tumors and tumorlike lesions of bone and soft tissue. For tumors of bone, the plain radiograph is not only the least expensive diagnostic test but is the most reliable predictor of the histologic nature of a given lesion. Consequently, it should be the first procedure performed and serve as the basis for determining the next step in the patient's evaluation. MR imaging is the examination of choice for staging bone tumors. CT is preferred to MR imaging only when the characteristics of the lesion are inadequately defined on plain radiographs, as may occur in flat bones. Although MR imaging is of limited value in predicting the histology of bone tumors, it is a useful tool for distinguishing round-cell tumors and metastases from stress fractures and medullary infarcts in symptomatic patients with normal radiographs. For depiction of soft-tissue masses, MR imaging is unrivaled. The histologic nature of a soft-tissue mass may, in some instances, be predicted on the basis of its MR appearance and multicentricity. Biopsy of bone and soft-tissue tumors should follow and not precede MR imaging. MR imaging reliably shows change in tumor volume after radiation or chemotherapy. It is less reliable in predicting the amount of tumor necrosis.